Monday, August 27, 2012

Musical Transformations: The Battle of Kookamonga

Homer and Jethro : The Battle of Kookamonga

Homer and Jethro (with June Carter) : Baby, It’s Cold Outside


As soon I heard about this week’s theme, one musical act immediately came to mind … namely, Homer and Jethro. The country music duo, popular in the 40s-60s, specialized in musical transformations with their comedic and satirical parodies of popular songs. Guitarist Henry "Homer" Haynes and mandolinist Kenneth "Jethro" Burns were both born near Knoxville, Tn. in 1920. They met each other at a radio station audition when they were 16 years old and first called themselves “Junior” and “Dude” (pronounced "Dude-ee"). When the WNOX program director forgot their nicknames during a 1936 broadcast, they became Homer and Jethro. While their schtick was hillbilly, they were actually excellent musicians comfortable with jazz, country and pop.

Most of the parodies were written by Burns. Their version of “Baby It's Cold Outside” (with June Carter) became a hit. Frank Loesser, composer of the song, permitted them to parody the tune with one condition -- the label had to read, “With apologies to Frank Loesser.” That got them onto WLS Chicago in 1950, a tour with bandleader Spike Jones, and several successful albums. In 1959, Homer and Jethro won a Grammy for “The Battle of Kookamonga,” a parody of Johnny Horton’ big hit “The Battle of New Orleans.” While Homer and Jethro passed away in 1971 and 1989, respectively, they did get inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Check out the many H&J audio files at this link. When it comes to musical transformations, these guys were spot on with their time. However, singing a politically incorrect song like “Let Me Go Blubber” could get you clobbered in this day and age.

blog comments powered by Disqus